Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Change Is Bad

For starters, at Rainbow. When I started shopping there, about 1985, at the corner of Mission and 15th, it was entirely the province of hippies stocking up on granola and bulk peanut butter. It’s now a much larger place at Folsom and Duboce, and lately, as the neighborhood has shifted, so has its clientele. It is common now to see Mercedes (Mercedeses?) and BMWs in the parking lot, and to see their owners in the store, but when I was there most recently, it seemed as if it was only their owners in the store, and me. Where did all those people who used to shop at Rainbow go? Have they left San Francisco entirely? I guess so, or they’d be at Rainbow. The workers are still mostly the same, though that is as seen by my uncalibrated shopper’s eye. My favorite cashier informs me that a shift is underway in that population, as well.

Lately I went to Cole Hardware downtown to stock up on masking tape, of which I go through about two rolls a month. Whenever Tom and I go away overnight, I say, “Don’t worry, I have the masking tape,” for the pleasure of seeing him roll his eyes. So handy for removing cat hair and random pieces of lint, but perhaps I’m in the minority on that, as well: Cole has moved the masking tape to a hard-to-reach top shelf. Soon it probably won’t be there at all.

Fortunately, after the hardware store, I planned to go to the Patrick & Co. on Mission St. to see Shirley, as I have been doing for years. She is a reliable source of good cheer and positive thinking.  Every time she sees me, she says, “Isn’t that a great hat? I love that hat!” Patrick & Co. sells office supplies: a million little interesting, colorful things. Therefore, it was exceedingly disorienting to walk through the door and see nothing but a long, bland, beige counter, with several young strangers standing blankly behind it. Surely Shirley could not be gone, along with the stickers, paper clips, pen refills, calendars, note pads and all the rest!

Signs overhead advised that office supplies were in the back, and indeed they were, plus Shirley. I said, “Thank god you’re still here!” Beaming, she agreed, “Thank heaven I’m still here,” which probably referred both to still being employed and still being alive, as she must be nearing 90. Her hair was freshly red—a welcome sort of change—and otherwise she was just as ever, though her two co-workers were gone. She explained that they had leased the front portion of the store to Copy Central. No doubt a smart and necessary move, but how long can it be before the stickers and Shirley just aren’t there?

Delta Air Lines’ new funny safety videos, like Shirley
’s fresh coiffure, are a welcome sort of change. I saw one in March and a different one on my recent trip to Ypsilanti. The latest video, when explaining how to buckle a seat belt, shows a large doughy white guy in a plaid shirt, with stubby polished red fingernails. He’s not someone we’re supposed to feel contempt for. There are many quirky characters in this video, like a fellow in a chef’s hat who grumpily closes the lid of a grill in the aisle next to him after hearing the instruction “No smoking.”  The seat belt guy is just another of them, which is a giant step up from being someone who should be beaten to death for not being just like everyone else. Delta is trying to keep people’s attention using humor, but also, I think, making the point that there are all kinds of people in this world. If Delta is smart, they want to see many kinds of people on their airplanes, not just heterosexual white ones.

Also, Wells Fargo lately sent all of its employees a link to information about planning one’s gender transition in the workplace, resources for its transgender employees. That is astonishing and wonderful. Wells Fargo, like Delta, understands that inclusiveness is a sound business strategy. Their main goal isn’t to make transgender employees and customers feel welcome. Their main goal is to make money, but it’s nice that one smart way to do that is to make as many people as possible feel welcome. Good for them.

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